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In this feature, we look at how Age UK is combating loneliness in later life through our befriending services. We explain how befriending works, and meet some of the older people who’ve benefitted from befriending, as well as some of the many volunteers who make this vital service possible.
Loneliness is a massive issue for people in later life in the UK. Half of all people aged 75 and over live alone, and 1 in 10 people aged 65 or over say they are always or often feel lonely – that’s just over a million people.
Shockingly, half of all older people consider the television their main form of company.
Charlie, 90, from the West Midlands found himself on his own after his wife passed away: ‘My wife and I were loners. We never went out and didn’t socialise much. After she died, I was very lonely, but I just had to get on with it. I could get out a bit then and do my own shopping, but I can’t even do that now.’
Joy, 88, from Stockport had a similar experience: ‘My husband died and left me on my own. I managed to cope with things and get by at first. But in the last two years it got very lonely and miserable. I saw my daughter once a week, but the rest of the time I was on my own with nobody to talk to. I thought, “This can’t go on with me by myself”.’
Read what happened next to Charlie and Joy
Call in Time – read Barbara’s story
To tackle the problem of loneliness among older people, Age UK has developed befriending services. The service works by assigning each older person a befriender, who provides friendly conversation and companionship on a regular basis over a long period of time. This relationship not only promotes wellbeing and confidence, but can also help people in later life to remain independent in their own homes.
Many local Age UKs provide befriending services, some by telephone and some where a volunteer visits the older person at their home. This vital service provides a link to the outside world and often acts as a gateway for other services and valuable support.
Age UK also provides a telephone befriending service called ‘Call in Time’, which consists of a regular daily or weekly phone call. The relationship is structured so that each befriender makes the call at a regular pre-agreed time. All befrienders are volunteers, who freely give up their time to help lonely older people.
Find out more about Age UK’s telephone befriending service
Meet the befrienders
Read about why befriending is so important
David Hamilton speaks to one of Age UK’s volunteers to find out how she helps Age UK to combat loneliness and isolation with the Befriending service.
More Health & Wellbeing radio
If you know of a lonely older person who you feel might benefit from our befriending services, or you’d just like to find out more, please get in touch:
Set your location to see what Age UK offers in your local area.
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